Champion Jockey Tony McCoy comes to Musselburgh’s big Festival Trials day tomorrow with some good rides for top trainers, but a small Scottish yard can also get in on the act.
The 19-times champion teams up with Seldom Inn for Borders trainer Sandy Thomson and I reckon the seven-year-old can complete a hat-trick of victories in the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial (3.30).
The gelding did not make his racecourse bow until turning out for a bumper at Newcastle just 14 months ago. Sent off at 20-1, he produced a strong surge in the home straight to beat a big field in style.
He was then third at Ayr in March, but was well beaten when unplaced in a top bumper there at last year’s Scottish National fixture.
He came back big and strong from a summer break to make an impressive winning debut over hurdles at Kelso in mid-October where he strolled home by eight lengths and he had no difficulty in following up at Newcastle a month later.
So far he has raced over two miles and so tomorrow’s race marks a big step up in trip, but he is by Double Trigger – a champion stayer on the flat – out of a successful Irish point-to-point mare, so should have stamina in abundance.
He has to shoulder a double penalty and is asked to give weight away all round, but can come out on top and book himself a trip to next months’ Cheltenham festival.
McCoy will be strongly fancied to take the John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial (2.00) on board Hargam for top Southern trainer Nicky Henderson.
Bred by the Aga Khan, he is out of a half-sister to a French Guineas winner and was successful on the flat in France when trained by Andre de Royer-Dupre.
He joined Henderson after finishing fourth in a Listed event at Maisson-Laffitte in June and clearly impressed his new handler as he made his hurdling bow in a Grade Two contest at Cheltenham in November, finishing a close second.
He went one better on that same track before Christmas and missed a similar task there recently because of the heavy ground. Connections feel he will be better on a sounder surface and he could have underfoot conditions to suit.
I liked the way Superb Story won on his hurdling debut on this track on New Year’s day and he may well test Hargam, for he also won on the level in France where he was also runner-up on three occasions, but Hargram just gets the vote.
Henderson launches a five-strong raid from his Berkshire base and Dawalan may head the market for the concluding Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (4.30) after justifying favouritism in style at Aintree in early December.
That was over two and a half miles and this longer trip should suit, but he has gone up 9lbs and I prefer the chances of Bothy, who languishes near the foot of the handicap.
The nine-year-old was runner-up in the Coral Cup at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival and also ran well in a Listed event at Aintree that spring, but he was injured the following season and sidelined for 21 months.
Not surprisingly it has taken time for him to regain proper fitness since returning to action in September, but he really caught my eye when third at Cheltenham recently.
The handicapper has raised him just a single pound, so he is still 18lbs below his peak rating of 140 and he gets a confident vote, especially with a useful claimer taking a further 7lbs off his back.
Tony McCoy can get his day off to a flyer on Ell Namoose in the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices Hurdle (1.00) which opens the eight race card.
Bred by Darley, he was too backward to run on the flat for Godolphin, but made a successful debut in a bumper for John Ferguson on this track just over a year ago before finishing in mid-field in the champion bumper at last seasons’ Cheltenham Festival.
He mopped up another two run-of-the-mill bumpers at Worcester and Huntingdon in the autumn before making a successful hurdling bow on the latter track in November. That was a weak event and he faces a much stiffer task tomorrow, but should have the class to prevail.
Selections: 1.00 El Namoose; 2.00 Hargam; 3.30 Seldom Inn; 4.30 Bothy.